Yesterday, Walter Cronkite’s voice opened the CBS Evening News for the last time.
Cronkite, who died Friday evening at age 92, has been the voice announcing the CBS Evening News since September 5, 2006, when Katie Couric took over as anchor of the broadcast that Cronkite helmed for 19 years. Last night, that familiar voice welcomed viewers for the last time: CBS News will be be retiring the Cronkite voiceover.
The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter reported via Twitter last night that the voiceover would be retired, “probably immediately”; Mediaite confirmed early this morning that the voiceover will not be used on further broadcasts.
Update, July 20, 2009: Stelter in today’s New York Times:
The recording of Mr. Cronkite’s deep Midwestern voice was retired over the weekend after Mr. Cronkite died Friday evening at the age of 92. Once Mr. Cronkite was known to be in poor health, CBS executives concluded that they would stop playing the voice-over when he died. “It just didn’t feel right,” said Sean McManus, the president of CBS News
In Reality Show: Inside The Last Great Television News War, Howard Kurtz described how Cronkite came to do that voiceover:
At least they would have a good introduction. Couric had approached Walter Cronkite, who at eighty-nine was hard of hearing but still had the same growl of an anchor voice, about recording a few opening words for her. Cronkite had a good deal of respect for Couric, dating back to her days as a reporter, and after being frozen out during the Rather years, he was delighted to be asked.
On the Saturday before the debut, they sat around — McManus, [Rome] Hartman, Couric, and Bob Peterson, the newly installed “creative director,” who had come with Couric from NBC — and listened to the tape. The vote was unanimous. The old man would be vouching for the new gal.
Here is that opening moment, now part of CBS News history:
(NB: I think CBS ought to have kept the voiceover – it’s a proud link to the past and, if the outpouring over the weekend is any indication, a truly beloved piece of it. Whatever new voiceover they come up with now can’t possibly measure up.)
> Monday Update: CBS has decided to keep the voiceover, reports Stelter today. “Walter’s family was very clear that if we continued to use his voice, they would consider it an honor,” said Sean McManus, President of CBS News & Sports.
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